Even small businesses need a cybersecurity plan, whether they have a few computers connected to Wi-Fi or they have a larger network. With the increasing likelihood of becoming the victim of a cyberattack, small businesses simply can’t leave their network unsecured.
An unsecure network can lead to customer data being leaked, proprietary information being stolen, or data being held hostage by ransomware. Any of these can lead to lost revenue and have a huge financial toll on a small business.
Part of any good cybersecurity plan is assessing how well that plan works. Once a small business moves past the planning and implementation stage of creating a network security plan, they should establish a process of continual evaluation of how successful that plan is.
One effective way to see how well a cybersecurity plan is functioning is to incorporate the use of penetration testing, also known as pentest. In pen testing, a professional ethical hacker will probe a network for vulnerabilities and determine how those vulnerabilities might be exploited.
Pen testing can be expensive because it requires paying a professional for their services. These services might not be cheap, but pen testing even on a semi-annual or annual basis is better than nothing.
Pen testing offers a number of benefits to small businesses; here’s how incorporating periodic pen testing can help protect yours.
Many industries have governmental regulations that require a certain level of cybersecurity. One example is in retail sales which accept credit cards, called the PCI DSS. Vendors who take customer credit card data or store credit card info are required to meet minimum standards.
Compliance is a word you may have heard in reference to regulations, but you may not know what it means. Compliance in the cybersecurity world means following the regulations and industry standards set for your industry.
Noncompliance can be very costly, both in fines and if your business suffers a breach and you become the subject of lawsuits by customers whose data has been compromised.
Pen testers can help you ensure you’re meeting industry standards for safeguarding customer data. They can tell you where your critical vulnerabilities are and how to fix them so your better able to protect your customers.
Help Secure Your Network
Nobody wants malicious actors poking around their company network. They could steal customer data, or, as has become the case, can encrypt your business data and demand a ransom for it. They can also install viruses and other malware that slows your systems down or steals data as well.
Pen testers work by identifying gaps where savvy cybercriminals can get into your network. These vulnerabilities aren’t necessarily identifiable through just vulnerability scans by your IT department. Many times, companies don’t find out about those gaps until it’s far too late.
Instead of being reactive, small businesses can be proactive by seeking out the services of a qualified pen tester. Getting a jump on the security holes in your network defense plan can help a company avoid issues later on as a result of being hacked.
As seen in the recent Colonial Pipelines hack, cybercriminals are often using a tactic called ransomware. In this method of cyber attack, criminals gain access to stored data (often a lot of stored data), and encrypt it.
Encrypting this data simply means they lock it up so nobody but they can access it through the use of a special decryption key. In order to get their data decrypted, the victims of a ransomware attack have to pay the hackers. This could be a relatively small fee for very small businesses to millions of dollars for large corporations.
Employing a pen tester periodically can help mitigate ransomware by identifying the areas in your small business’s network that could allow hackers to get in. Pen testers can find those vulnerabilities and help you come up with a plan to close them.
Ransomware is particularly insidious because it directly affects your company’s bottom line, not to mention when hackers use it to steal confidential medical information, as is often the case. Paying a relatively small amount to a pen tester now can save thousands or even millions of dollars in extortion fees later.
Don’t Skip Pen Testing – It’s Critical
At the end of the day, pen testing is going to pay dividends for your small business. Not only is it often a regulatory requirement, it helps save your company money and helps you protect private customer information. Some clients may even require proof of pen testing prior to doing business with you.
With ransomware attacks on the rise and a world where hackers are getting better and better at penetrating defenses, you should consider hiring a pentester. It’s better to find vulnerabilities now and work on getting them fixed, instead of learning about them the hard way later on. In this instance, an ounce of prevention is certainly worth a pound of cure.